Since its opening two years ago, La Terraza Rum and Lounge has primarily been recognized for its bar program, and for good reason. The rum lineup is the most comprehensive in Central Arkansas, and its mojitos are good enough to be called addictive. But I hope you get a chance to dig in to the restaurant’s lunch and dinner menu, because the Venezuelan restaurant also excels in the kitchen. Just this past week, La Terraza unveiled its new fall menu: a focused, classical menu that draws its influences from Venezuela’s rich and widely varied culture and history.
Let’s start off with a pasta dish, which may surprise some people who are expecting a more Central American style of cooking. However, Venezuela has a number of Mediterranean influences that have informed its cuisine, including Italian (fun fact: Venezuela ranks second in the world in pasta consumption, even ahead of the United States). You’ll see that in several pasta dishes on La Terraza’s menu, including the new Langosta con Pasta. This is a simple dish consisting of a seven-ounce lobster tail atop a bed of fettuccine Alfredo, but there is plenty to love about it. The lobster is fresh and sweet and soaked in an herbed dressing, and the fettuccine is perfectly cooked. This one should prove popular with diners not looking for anything too exotic but still delicious.
Speaking of exotic, next up is the dish I think represents the best plate La Terraza has ever created. The Pulpo a la Parrilla features an expertly grilled octopus doused in a house vinaigrette and served with creamy, sliced potatoes. This octopus ranks with some of the best I’ve ever had: firm, juicy, slightly salty and bursting with fresh flavors. The vinaigrette is perfect here, giving everything a nice pop of brightness. Some of you might consider this too adventurous, but trust me, it’s not an order you’ll regret making.
Even though fall has arrived, that doesn’t mean we’re going to have a full slate of crisp, cool days. Arkansas weather can be fickle, so La Terraza has a couple of salads featuring seafood that will be perfect for a warm day (or any day, really). First up is a Surimi Crab Salad made with sliced pears and a honey aioli. While surimi is technically not crab, it is still seafood; most surimi is made with Alaskan Pollock. The combination of the surimi and the salad comes across as a sweet, crisp entrée. And my favorite salad on the menu now is the Lomo de Atun Abrazado, which features perfectly cooked tuna steak on a hearty chef’s salad. Fresh, quickly seared tuna is one of life’s pleasures to me, and this dish is a wonderful example.
Of course, fall usually means heartier dishes on the menu, and La Terraza has introduced a new Osso Buco entrée to fit the bill. This beef shank gets braised for hours until it is fork tender, then topped with a rich pan gravy made from the drippings. It’s then paired with a carbonara pasta made with egg and freshly grated parmesan cheese. This is true, cold-weather comfort food to me; something that leaves you full, warm and happy as you go out.
Of course, you can always find La Terraza’s trademark arepas, pabellon and paella on the menu. All of these are dishes that you won’t find very often in Central Arkansas, and all are made with expertise by a family that cooked for years in Venezuela before coming to Little Rock. Next time you make dinner plans, you really should consider putting in a reservation at La Terraza. It’s one of the more underrated gems in the city.